Interesting Facts About The Lion
The lion is one of the world's largest cats, surpassed only by the Siberian Tiger. It is native to Africa and Asia, although there are only a couple hundred Asian lions still alive today, in the Gir Forest in India. It is the only big cat that lives socially, in groups of animals called prides.
Overview of the Lion
Lions are classified as big cats, and they are among the four cats that cannot purr but can roar. The other three are leopards, jaguars and tigers. Female lions weigh around 250 pounds at maturity, while males may be nearly twice that size.
The full mane of an adult male lion is familiar to most people. The color of the mane can range from as light as the rest of the cat's body to almost black. Lions in certain regions tend to have black manes, while lions in other regions may have totally blond manes.
The main diet of most lions consists of gazelles, antelope and zebras. However, some prides specialize in hunting certain animals such as elephants or water buffalo. These large prey can seriously injure or kill a lion if they are not careful, though.
Male lions are slower and less agile than females. Those who control a pride tend to let the females hunt for them, although they may help with animals that are too large for the females to handle. When male lions do hunt, they tend to focus on larger prey.
Lions are not always the nicest of animals. Approximately 40 percent of their diet consists of scavenging, some of which may include unattended meat but most of which is taken from other, smaller carnivores. The smaller animal is then left with nothing but the scraps to show for his or her efforts.
Lifestyle of the Lion
Adults female lions live in groups called prides. All of the females in a pride are related and any females born into the pride will usually stay with it for their entire lives. Males leave the pride at sexual maturity and will attempt to take over another pride in order to breed.
Males often leave their natal pride in groups consisting of brothers, cousins, and even more distant relatives. These groups often remain together for life. Small groups and lone males may also team up with unrelated lions.
Although male coalitions may be useful for hunting purposes, the main purpose appears to be helping them gain access to females. The larger a coalition is, the more successful it is likely to be when challenging resident males for a pride. Larger coalitions also remain in control for longer, which is important because the average tenure of the resident males in a pride is only two years.
As soon as they show signs of aging, male lions are usually ejected from the pride by younger usurpers. If they survive, they will become wandering nomads. The average lifespan of a wild male is 12 years, but it can be considerably shorter.
Elderly female lions, however, will be taken care of by their kin. Female lions that belong to a pride will continue to be fed and allowed to remain with the group for their entire lives. Wild adult females may live to be as old as 18. Captive animals of both sexes can reach 20 years of age.
Reproductive and Growth Habits of the Lion
Female lions tend to give birth around the same time and raise their cubs as a group. They share feeding, grooming and babysitting duties and will even suckle each others' cubs. The average litter is two to four cubs, but up to nine has been reported.
Lion cubs are vulnerable when they are young and many do not survive. Adult males taking over a new pride will kill any cubs in order to make the females receptive again more quickly. Somewhere between one-half and one-eighth of all cubs make it to their second birthday.
Adolescent males are pushed out of the pride around the age of two and half. The mature males in the pride will not tolerate their presence, whether they are related or not. Adolescent females will spend a period of time at the bottom of the social ladder before being accepted as full member of the pride. Most females will breed for the first time when they are about three